Airlines are finally passing on savings from low fuel prices to consumers who can expect to pay 17-percent less for flights over the next three months. Though this is good news for holiday travelers, airfare, hotels and car rental costs peak from Thanksgiving through Christmas, so it’s important to plan your trip wisely.
To avoid eating too much into your holiday budget, follow these travel-booking tips to save this season.
Book before December 15.
If you can’t book your flight early because you’re waiting to confirm time off, just make sure you do so before December 15. Airfare prices spike the last 10 days leading up to Christmas, and you’ll pay out the nose for last-minute holiday travel.
Airfare fluctuates throughout the day, week and based on demand. Booking today could mean you miss out savings tomorrow, so start watching flight prices and track savings using Pintrips.com, which compares prices on travel with real-time price-tracking and offers an added social element to help you coordinate with your family and friends. You can also use the Hopper App to learn about the best times to fly based on price and get notified when your preferred itinerary drops in price.
Click for coupons.
Despite higher prices around the holidays, travel providers still offer deals to compete for your dollars. Before reserving flights, hotels and car rentals, always search for coupon codes to reduce your cost. Such websites as CouponSherpa.com make it easy to find travel promo codes for extra savings including $25 off $100 Hotwire bookings, or 25-percent off a car rental from Budget through Dec. 28.
Shop warehouse sites.
If you have a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club, consider booking through their travel portals for discounts on airfare, lodging and rental cars, as well as deals on cruises and activities. Costco has deals like 10 to 20-percent off rooms at Hyatt and Best Western properties, as well as discounts and coupons from several rental car companies. Sam’s Club advertises average savings of 15 percent on hotel rooms, and 10-percent off rental car rates.
Book one-way fares.
Before you limit your airfare searches to round-trip tickets, price one-way tickets from multiple carriers to see if you can get a better deal. This strategy also enables you to apply reward miles to one leg of the trip if you don’t have enough to cover the cost of a round-trip ticket.
Buy someone’s reservation.
RoomerTravel.com connects you with other travelers who are stuck with a hotel reservation they can’t change, and facilitates your purchase of that reservation for up to 25 percent below market price. Enter the city or zip code where you’re visiting to look for available reservations.
Travel on the holiday.
Since most consumers don’t want to fly on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, airfare will be lower. While it’s not ideal to show up late to Thanksgiving dinner, you can still spend a long weekend with your family and enjoy leftovers. In addition to day-of discounts, certain days are better priced than others, like return flights scheduled for Dec. 2 instead of Nov. 29.
Send gifts directly.
With carry-on and checked baggage fees adding to the cost of holiday travel, the last thing you want to worry about is fitting everyone’s gifts into your luggage. Avoid this complication by shipping gifts directly to the recipient. If time is an issue, know you can put off your holiday shopping up until Dec. 18, the date of this year’s Free Shipping Day. Hundreds of retailers will offer free shipping (no minimum order thresholds) plus extra discounts, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
Use your rewards.
Now is the time to use those credit card or booking site reward programs. If you’re booking an extended stay at a hotel this holiday season, consider signing up for Hotels.com Rewards, which will provide you with one free night’s stay after every 10 days booked. Use this site to book hotel accommodations throughout the year to accrue free nights during the pricey holiday season.
Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.